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LIVE REVIEW: Jeff Tweedy @ Metro Theatre, Sydney

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Jeff Tweedy with Jen Cloher
Metro Theatre, Sydney
May 20th, 2019

By Chris Familton

In 20 years of attending gigs at the Metro, this was the first time I’d seen seats in the venue. There were mixed comments from the audience but it worked well, creating a more intimate atmosphere in the room, which in turn deterred the inevitable talkers you get at standing gigs and enhanced the quality of sound and experience of a solo acoustic show. Jeff Tweedy also seemed to warm to the vibe of the room, and its temporary inhabitants, with a perfectly balanced set of old and new songs, some hilarious stories and above all, a reminder of his exceptional craft as a songwriter, singer and musician.

IMG_7030Jen Cloher played a brief opening set and despite getting the runaround from a song when she was chasing its tuning and capo position, she drew rapturous applause from the crowd with renditions of ‘Sensory Memory’, ‘Regional Echo’, ‘David Bowie Eyes’, and a heart-swelling version of ‘Strong Woman’.

Opening with Wilco’s ‘Via Chicago’, Tweedy had the fan club signed up from the outset. There was a double win with a show like this – hearing Wilco and Uncle Tupelo (‘New Madrid’) songs stripped back and experiencing songs from the recent albums Warm and Warmer performed live in Australia for the first time. Of those new ones, ‘Let’s Go Rain’ featured a glorious, rousing chorus sing-along through the theatre, while a glimpse into the lyric writing and reaction of his wife to the song ‘Guaranteed’, was pure Tweedy in its mix of sweet love and cynicism. 

The biggest cheers of course came with those songs that have been, in some cases, part of our lives for nearly quarter of a century (‘Passenger Side’). ‘You And I’ was gorgeous in its devotional fragility, ‘Impossible Germany’, I’m The Man Who Loves You’, the sublime ‘California Stars’, ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’ and ‘Jesus Etc.’ all felt loved and lived-in by everyone in the room.

There was no ‘this is my new album tour’ selfishness on Tweedy’s part as he considered requests, indulged in some hilarious banter and stories of Belleville goths, writer festivals and in-your-face audience whoopers. After warming into the set he seemed genuinely relaxed, engaged and enjoying the performance, complimenting the attentiveness and singing prowess of the audience. 

Tweedy solo was all one could hope for and more. An up close experience of his music without the the glorious Wilco dressage revealed nuance in the songs and, for the most part, highlighted how economical and simply affecting his songwriting is. It was all summed up by a beautiful cover of Labi Siffre’s ‘It Must Be Love’, made famous by Madness. 

I never thought I’d miss you
Half as much as I do
And I never thought I’d feel this way
The way I feel
About you

As soon as I wake up
Every night, every day
I know that it’s you I need
To take the blues away

It must be love, love, love
It must be love, love, love
Nothing more, nothing less
Love is the best

tie off

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